Whether you’re new to skincare, have no clue about it, an enthusiast or a junkie, we can all agree that the skincare trend is here to stay. The skin is the largest organ of the body and taking proper care of it is important!  Women (and men) are getting more involved in taking care of their skin and unleashing their inner beauty through that timeless skin glow.

With so much information online, numerous skincare brands, new products popping up every day, it can be overwhelming to know what your skincare essentials are, when to add the extra(s), and when to pass. This is why we felt the need to simplify the basic steps to guide you on your journey to healthy skin.

One thing to have in mind when approaching skincare is that ‘Skincare is not one-size-fits-all’. What works for the girl or boy next door might not work for you, and that’s normal. Rather, knowing the right steps, ingredients and products will help you build your own skincare routine according to your skin concerns. It is also important to identify your skin type so as to get products suited to your skin’s specific needs. Skin types are generally categorized into – normal (balanced), dry, oily, and combination. Note that your skin type doesn’t necessarily have to fit into these boxes, the skin is complex. Other factors such as seasonal changes and cosmetic products can also influence your skin type.

Dry, Normal, Oily, Combination skin
Four Main Skin Types

Cleanse

The first and most important step in skincare is to have a clean slate. Dirt, excess sebum (oil), makeup and impurities can lead to clogged pores, if not properly washed off the face. Washing your face regularly (at least every day) is recommended.

What to look for: A gentle, pH-balanced (this makes toner optional) cleanser that won’t strip away your skin’s natural moisture.

Try: COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser , The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

Read Next: Here’s How Long You Should Be Washing Your Face

Moisturize

Cleansers and exfoliators tend to strip the skin of its much-needed moisture.  Moisturizers provide hydration; restore the skin’s natural moisture and protective barrier, and keep it looking radiant. Moisturizer is essential for every skin type, including oily skin. Depending on your skin type, the climate, your budget, moisturizer is customizable. Moisturizers can be grouped into three categories; humectants, emollients, and occlusives.

Humectants draw/absorb water molecules from the surroundings to the skin surface to help the skin retain moisture *hydration. E.g. – glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera gel, urea.

Emollients  smooth and soften the skin by filling any gaps between the skin cells that are lacking moisturizing lipids. E.g. – fatty acids (shea butter, rose hip oil) , ceramides.

Occlusives act as moisture sealers by providing a physical barrier to prevent loss of water/moisture from the skin cells. E.g. – petrolatum (Vaseline).

Protect: Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the ideal anti-aging product. Sunscreen provides protection from UV rays (UVA & UVB). It prevents sunburn, hyperpigmentation, premature wrinkles, fine lines, and skin cancer. Some moisturizers also come with sun protection factor (SPF) which makes it easy to combine the previous step with this one. A minimum of ‘broad-spectrum’ SPF 50 is recommended.

Sunscreen comes in two main flavors – organic and inorganic UV filters. No, I don’t mean the kind of ‘organic’ used in marketing natural-based skincare. Besides, there’s no natural sunscreen so don’t let these cosmetic labels fool you (Nigerian skincare sunscreens with shea butter, I’m looking at you) . Inorganic UV filters used in sunscreens are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Those sunscreens that have the label ‘mineral sunscreens’ use these filters.  They’re usually responsible for the white-cast you may have noticed with sunscreens.

Whereas organic UV filters are carbon-contain compounds that are designed to absorb UV radiation (some also scatter & reflect UV rays e.g. Tinosorb M). Example of organic UV filters used in sunscreen formulations include Uvinul A-plus, Uvinul T150, Octisalate, Avobenzone, Ecamsule, Octinoxate, Octocrylene and so much more. They are brown-skin friendly as they don’t leave you looking like casper the ghost. The great thing is today we have tons of sunscreen formulations to choose from – clear, lightweight, hydrating, mist… so you can say goodbye to those thick white pasty sunscreens that have you looking ashy and clog your pores.

Try: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50

Exfoliate

So after covering the basics, there’s always room for some extra because it takes an army of ingredients to really target those skin concerns. In fact, exfoliation shouldn’t be considered as extra but essential. Only that, let’s say you have a slim budget and have to drop one between cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and an exfoliator, then we’ll advise you drop the exfoliator.

Exfoliation is important as it helps our body speed up the shedding of those dead skin cells. It does the deep cleansing that your everyday washing can’t do for your pores. Exfoliation can either be physical (mechanical) or chemical and should be done every other day, say 2/3 times a week, depending on how much your skin can handle at that moment.

Physical (mechanical) exfoliators come in the form of microbeads (like sugar scrubs), sponges, brushes and they usually have an immediate effect after wash, which is softer, smoother skin.

Whereas chemical exfoliation includes the use of fruit enzymes, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), and Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs). The effects of chemical exfoliation are not immediate but last longer.

AHAs work by loosening up the bonds holding the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, subsequently revealing smoother skin texture. Examples are glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid. BHAs (salicylic acid – the only known type) are oil-soluble, so they do not only work on the skin surface but penetrate deeper into the pores and get through the sebum (an oily substance produced by our skin), which makes them the best option for oily and combination skin types.

Fruit enzymes often derived from fruits like pineapple and papaya are best suited for those whose skin is sensitive towards acid exfoliators.

Try: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution ,  The Ordinary 10% Lactic Acid + HA, Paula’s Choice 2% BHA

Treat

This is the part where we target those specific skin conditions such as acne, blemish control, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, wrinkles, dehydration, texture irregularities, and so on. Serums are usually the go-to for treatments. Serums contain high concentrations of active ingredients in small molecules which allow them to penetrate deep into the skin.

Examples of skin conditions and treatments;

Dehydration – Hyaluronic Acid, Urea

Acne – Benzoyl Peroxide

Hyperpigmentation – Vitamin C, Alpha Arbutin, Kojic Acid

Texture irregularities – Retinoids

Quick Recap and Order of Application

  1. Cleanse
  2. Exfoliate
  3. Treat (when necessary)
  4. Moisturize
  5. Protect: Sunscreen

These are the steps to keep in mind when building a skincare routine, for both beginners and enthusiasts. Step 1, 4, 5 are the essentials for every skin type, while 2 & 3 are also important but secondary. What this means is that if for instance, you have a budget for skincare and you’re trying to decide between getting a charcoal mask and a moisturizer, go for the moisturizer.

Following this skincare guide with the right products (coming up in another postfor your skin type will help maintain healthy skin. Over time, it will also prevent and provide a remedy for a good number of skin concerns. Also, note that as your skin changes, so does your routine. As you understand your skin and its needs better, you can gradually build up your skincare stash.

Are you following the 5-step skincare routine? What’s your routine like? What are your favorite products to use for each step? Share with us in the comments. Share this post with a friend to enlighten them.

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6 Comments

  1. My skincare goals changed when I changed my routine. This is a very detailed guide. I hope other readers take it seriously. Skincare demands work, dedication and thoughtfulness. Glad you’ve given us a heads-up with this post. I must say, till today, I’m still skeptical about applying sunscreen on my face; I mean, if it is not a face cream/oil, I just can’t get myself to put it on my face. You know the struggle to get rid of acne and hyper-pigmentation. I can’t deal. I just stop at moisturizing or using a facial serum.

    • Hawwa Reply

      Yes, skincare does take effort and determination! I understand, but Winifred, it is really important that you wear sunscreen. Not only is it one of the keys to anti-aging, it is also important when treating hyperpigmentation because our skin produces more melanin when exposed to the sun. Of course, you don’t want the UV rays reversing all the hard-work and investment you put into treating hyperpigmentation. If your struggle is finding a sunscreen that won’t cause breakouts or leave you looking grey, you could look into chemical-acting sunscreens. I’ll be sharing more on that in a blog post soon, so stay tuned! xx

  2. It took me a while to stick to a skincare routine but I’m glad I finally did. This was helpful!

  3. I really learnt a lot reading this. I have an oily skin and I’m wondering what toner you would recommend and also the oil I can use on my face. I was advised not to use tea tree oil directly on my face? Also what homemade scrubs can I use on my face for exfoliation?

    • Hawwa Reply

      Hi Tobi! I’m glad you found the post helpful. A toner or serum with niacinamide will help regulate the oil production on your skin. One with salicylic acid acid will also be great because it is oil-soluble and can exfoliate the pores. So, definitely look out for that. Also, the strength of the salicylic acid and frequency of application matters. If you’re just starting out, try 0.5% and see how your skin reacts before working your way up to 2%. A good one you can try is the Benton Aloe BHA toner. I believe Eve Beautique stocks it. I don’t usually recommend homemade scrubs on the face as the texture could be too rough on the skin.

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